The Siege of Jadotville, directed by Richie Smyth, is a film that fails to really invest you in anything; its characters, its conflict, its overall plot. Nothing really grabbed me in this film as memorable, a lot of the film feels very flat and void of anything of meaningful substance. So let’s just get into this review and start the breakdown of just where this film goes wrong.
This is quite a difficult story synopsis to give as the film does such a poor job of clearly outlining the many elements that make up the film, so here we go. Set in the 1960’s and based on a true story; we follow ‘A’ Company, a troop of Irish soldiers who have been sent in as UN peacekeepers to the political hotbed that is the Katanga conflict. It is there that they end up defending Jadotville, an area of land that is a complete nightmare for anyone hoping to stand their ground there, while it is a dream come true for any force hoping to attack and overwhelm its non-existent defences. The state of Katanga (which was recently under new leadership) did not appreciate the presence of UN forces and so sent a large mercenary force to wipe out the small town of Irish troops. Things of course played out very differently.
So perhaps the main failing of the film is that it in no way invests you in some of its key elements. Let’s take the various characters in the film; it completely fails to build them out and define them as individuals. I either had no reason to care for the wellbeing or outcome of certain characters or I just plainly struggled to remember the relevance of those characters within the overall film. Apart from one or two characters (of whom I will touch upon in a moment) there is no one that stands out – hell, I couldn’t even tell you their names, only the unique physical attribute that the films relies on to distinguish them; oh he’s the person with the glasses, or he’s the one with the cut on his cheek etc.
So when it came to following along and empathising with the characters in the film, I simply had no reason to. The few who do (somewhat) standout are also not that memorable. Leading the film is Jamie Dornan – who plays Pat Quinlan – and not only is his character massively underdeveloped, but Dornan also lacks the presence to either hold your attention or make you believe that he is the character that he is portraying. I never felt that the film or Dornan’s performance highlighted or enlightened me as to just who the man was; he is presented in a way that gives you no meaningful sense as to who he was and what it was that drove him – the film just expects you to get behind him because of the circumstances he is facing. In fact that’s an issue that can be put towards every aspect of the film, you’re expected to care but never given a reason to. Just because of the situation that the soldiers find themselves in is terrible, doesn’t mean that I instantly get on board and give the film a pass on delivering the necessary investment that is required.
Perhaps the only actor/character I was actually interested to see more of – and the person who would have been a much better lead in the film – is Jason O’Mara, who plays Sgt. Jack Prendergast. Not only does O’Mara bring his all to his performance, but the miniscule amount that the film shows us of him makes him a compelling person to watch. There is such intensity and also such a presence to him, that I wanted the film to shift focus away from Jamie Dornan and his character and put the limelight primarily on Jason O’Mara and Sgt. Jack Prendergast. This of course doesn’t happen and I was left wanting of someone who just wasn’t ever going to get to shine properly.
So while the siege is raging on, there is also the other part to the film’s plot which only served to dampen my interest in the film more: and that is the backroom political bickering. I was struggling to find reasons to invest myself in the soldiers and the siege, so as you can imagine, investing myself in politicians having arguments that led nowhere and were about stuff that I didn’t fully understand – because the film fails to explain things clearly – was never going to be something that would be compelling to watch. These segments are primarily led by characters and actors who bring nothing of note to the table – not even Mark Strong is able to make these segments of the film interesting. I was stuck within two running stories, neither of which were developed or explored in a way that made me want more.
I had no characters that I could connect with and support, I had no story that intrigued me, and sadly not even the action set-pieces were exciting to watch. The cinematography of the action is so stagnant and stale; nothing moves in a way that catches the eye or makes you gaze in awe at the scale or execution of it. The camera just moves very plainly along or sits still and takes in scenes that are void of anything interesting to look at; there is no tension, there is no excitement and there are no wow moments. It’s just one big dull experience.
It also doesn’t help that the structure of the siege is so tediously repetitive and circular. The enemy advances, ‘A’ company repels them and the enemy retreat back into the jungle, a few scenes of panic and shouting play out and then the enemy returns for another shootout in which they inevitably retreat. This goes on for the whole film and it never massively diverts from this structure. There are one or two bigger set-pieces, but still, nothing that gets the heart racing and the excitement levels up.
I suppose the only positive that I could say for the actions segments of the film is the practicality of them; buildings being torn apart my bullets, jeeps being blown up by mortar shells etc. there is detail within the carnage of the fights and I appreciated seeing the use of real-life destruction. It’s just a shame that, that detail and time wasn’t also put into the other elements of the film that leave much to be desired.
Overall this was a film that left me completely detached from any of its basic components. I never found myself sitting up in my seat and getting tense about the outcome of a battle, I never lost myself in a scene filled with compelling content. I just watched this film, didn’t think about it much once it finished and was ultimately left feeling nothing from it.
So I will not be recommending ‘The Siege of Jadotville’; a nothing experience that is not worth your time, despite it being so easily accessible on Netflix. Pass it by and take the time to watch something much more thought-provoking and entertaining – like the Netflix film ‘Tallulah’.
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